Selecting cabinet one of first orders of business for Trudeau

One of the first orders of business for any new prime minister is picking a cabinet.

The men and women who head government departments and who speak to the issues linked to those departments must be chosen carefully. In addition to finding a geographic balance and ensuring that cabinet ministers have at least some of the requisite experience for the job, Canadian cabinets also tend to reflect the country’s bilingual nature and its cultural and ethnic diversity.

In this instance, prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau will also be trying to adhere to his promises to cut the number of cabinet ministers from the dozens of positions that existed under the Harper government to about 25, and to appoint an equal number of male and female ministers. He has a deep pool of talent and plenty of MPs to choose from across the country – 184 to be exact.

READ MORE: Trudeau wins; here’s what he promised and what he’ll face as prime minister

So, who might end up where?

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Deputy Prime Minister

Longtime Regina-Wascana MP Ralph Goodale, 66, won his seat handily on Monday night, and is a possible top-choice to fill the deputy prime-minister position (and/or House Leader) in a Trudeau government. In addition to his decades of experience as an MP, Goodale also served as finance minister under former prime minister Paul Martin. Whether he would accept the finance slot again remains to be seen, but deputy PM may be seen as the better fit for the House of Commons veteran as the Liberals make an effort to signal change rather than hearkening back to cabinets past.


As mentioned, Goodale is a possibility here, but there are at least two other strong candidates to take over as finance minister. Bill Morneau, 52, left a top executive position in finance to run for the Liberals, and would therefore come with a network of contacts already established.

Longtime MP Scott Brison, 48, is also a viable possibility, having previously served under the Martin government as minister of public works. He has extensive experience sitting on cabinet committees and was, at one point, vice-chairman of the Standing Committee on Finance. Most recently he served as co-chair of Trudeau’s economic advisory panel.


Jody Wilson-Raybould is also likely a top choice for environment minister. A leader in the Aboriginal community, she holds a law degree and has championed environmental causes in the past. She was personally recruited by Trudeau. Joyce Murray, 61, is another B.C. MP who once served as that province’s environment minister and would therefore be well-suited for the federal job.

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Dominic Leblanc, 47, is very close to Trudeau and justice would probably be a good fit for him. Leblanc holds a Masters of Law from Harvard, and has extensive experience on Commons committees and as former Liberal justice critic.


Retired Canadian Forces General Andrew Leslie may seem like the front-runner for this position, but there is such a thing as being too experienced. Leslie only left the ranks of the military a few years ago, and he had his detractors. In the interest of keeping him close to defence decisions, however, Trudeau may appoint him minister of Public Safety. A less obvious, but perhaps more viable, choice for defence minister might be former Toronto police chief Bill Blair.

Foreign Affairs

This portfolio could be just the right fit for former astronaut Marc Garneau, 66, who has plenty of international (and extra-terrestrial) travel under his belt. He also knows the file, having previously served as opposition critic for foreign affairs.

Aboriginal Affairs

Wilson-Raybould is, again, a possible candidate as she is Aboriginal herself and has been heavily involved in social justice and environmental causes linked to First Nations communities. Hunter Tootoo of Nunavut has a similar background, but also impressive political credentials to boot. He is the former speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Nunavut, has held numerous important territorial cabinet positions, and would give Trudeau the opportunity to appoint someone from the territories to cabinet.

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Star candidates

Newly elected first-time MPs like Ottawa’s Catherine McKenna, Montreal’s Melanie Joly and Newfoundland’s Seamus O’Regan may not have the political experience for big portfolios, but they were considered star candidates for the party. Their wins may be accompanied by appointments as parliamentary secretaries or ministers of state.

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